When Japan sends Koichi Wakata up into the International Space Station (ISS) later this year, he will have tiny friend—Kirobo—to be his companion.
Kirobo, a pocket-sized humanoid robot, will accompany Wakata as he carries out his assignments on the ISS. Despite standing just 13.4 inches (34cm) tall and weighing 2.2 (1kg) pounds, Kirobo is more than just a toy. The Astro Boy-inspired robot has a wide range of physical abilities, and unlike Apple’s Siri, it can fluidly communicate with its fellow human in Japanese.
“This may look a small step, but it will be a big stride as a robot,” said Kirobo at a press meeting in Tokyo.
Taking up his role as the first Japanese astronaut to command the ISS, Wakata will interact with Kirobo as if he, too, is a crew member. According to Kirobo’s creator, the robot will play a role in daily activities on the ISS—mainly, the relaying of messages from the control room.
Tomotaka Takahashi, Kirobo’s father, says he hopes Kirobo’s adventure into space will ignite a trend in which highly developed humanoid robots will start to play a bigger role in man’s study and exploration of space.